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Using smartphones from computers

By Jean-Claude Elias - Sep 19,2019 - Last updated at Sep 19,2019

Operating smartphones while on the move represents a significant part of using them. After all they are essentially mobile devices designed for that. But doing it while at the same working at our computer is not a negligible part either. Hence, in this last case, the need to have both connected. The advantages are many.

The most obvious application is viewing media contents like photos and videos. Although these would be stored on the phone, being able to watch and eventually post-process them from the comfort of a computer’s large screen is invaluable. Not to mention the full-size physical keyboard and of course the mouse.

The old, “dummy” way consisted of connecting the phone to the computer via a USB cable and then access the media and other files. This is cumbersome, limited, tedious, and — again — old. Slowly but surely, software applications that address this need in a smarter way are appearing in the IT market.

Integrated in the latest update of Microsoft Windows 10 is a built-in application called Your Phone that just lets you do that. It connects wirelessly to the smartphone, and once this is done you drive it from the computer. It works nicely and smoothly. Functionality, however, is somewhat limited, as it is restricted to accessing the files stored on the phone.

There is of course much more about the concept than merely accessing files. This is where Samsung Flow comes. The new application is available if your phone runs on Android, and there are two versions of it, one for Windows computers and another for Mac machines. Using Flow is pure pleasure. You actually “see” your smartphone’s screen(s) on the larger screen of your Windows or Mac computer — again wirelessly.

Once displayed, you can do virtually everything your phone does, but without touching it at all. You can make calls, answer calls, open files, search contacts, rearrange icons, compose SMS or WhatsApp messages, check email, and so forth. You can also share contents and synchronise notifications. I have been using Flow for just a few days and now cannot imagine working without it anymore, if I am at my desk. Samsung likes to call it a “magical experience of seamlessly connected devices”.

If yours is not an Android device but an iPhone, then you would go for iBrowse, which is a simple app that “lets your Mac or PC access an iOS device”.

Wireless networking, whether through Wifi or Bluetooth (over shorter ranges, admittedly), is making all devices talk to each other and communicate effortlessly. The concept is not new, and it helps the various devices complete each other in terms of practicality.

Part of the concept chain is the smartwatch that more and more people are going for these days. But the tiny screen of a smartwatch is even smaller than that of the phone itself! In the end nothing beats the convenience that comes with a computer’s keyboard, mouse and large screen. Hence the importance of applications like Samsung’s Flow or Apple’s iBrowse.

There have been software applications to connect smartphones and computers for many years. Most were practically useless and would bring you more headache than convenience. WebDev, for example, is an old Android app that lets Windows “see” your smartphone as an external hard disk, through Wifi. It is only this year that really powerful apps like Flow and iBrowse have become available, easy, feature-rich, smooth and convenient.

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